|By Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 3, 2005 - Anne Duber isn't your typical restaurant worker -- because there is no typical restaurant worker.
In an industry whose jobs span the spectrum from fast-food worker to executive chef at a five-star restaurant, there's room for people from all walks of life and all types of aspirations.
Some people just want to pick up a few hours and a little extra money while others work full time to pay for school. Still others may go into it as a career.
"One of the nice things about the restaurant industry is the wide array of positions and type of flexibility that's there for people," said Barbara Scheule, an associate professor of hospitality management at Kent State University.
It's also an industry that can accommodate a wide range of people with different talents.
"If you're a person who enjoys taking care of people, it's an industry where that's what you get to do. You can make somebody's day by bringing a meal to the table that was just perfect," she said.
In Northeast Ohio, the accommodation and food services industry was second only to health care when it came to creating new jobs from 1990 to 2004, according to an Akron Beacon Journal analysis. In 1990, 29,300 people worked in the industry. In 2004, 47,500 people worked in the industry, an increase of 62 percent.
Nationally, the restaurant industry employs 12.2 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association. The industry is the largest employer besides the government, according to the trade group.
The group also says Americans will spend almost 47 percent of their food dollar in restaurants in 2005.
That's because people view eating out differently these days, said Scheule. It's not just about going out for a special occasion anymore. It's about dinner out because Mom or Dad doesn't feel like cooking.
Experience and tips influence income
Pay in the industry varies widely. The average annual wage went up 4 percent from $10,115 in 1990, adjusted for inflation, to $10,510 in 2004.
However, those in the industry say pay can go as high as $150,000 for a general manager of a restaurant. Chefs can make as much as $50,000 a year and servers as much as $60,000, depending on the restaurant.
Pete Nervo, owner of Jaspers Restaurant in the Ellet area of Akron and Jasper's Grille & Pub in West Akron, said pay will depend upon experience and tips.
He pays some of his cooks $7.50 an hour and others $12 to $13 an hour. His wait staff starts out higher than the $2.13 an hour minimum wage for waiters at $2.38 an hour. But with tips, he thinks his servers are getting close to $12 to $15 an hour, which can top $31,000 a year.
It is widely acknowledged in the industry that many waiters don't report all of their tips on their income tax, although it is required by the government. This makes valid statistics hard to find.
The amount of tips someone receives really depends upon the type of restaurant. Nervo said his workers at Jasper's Restaurant, which is more of a home-cooking restaurant, make less in tips than the workers at his fine dining location on White Pond Drive.
Bartending and degree enhance earnings
As beverage manager at the upscale Jacob Good Downtown in Akron, Duber receives a salary. But she also works as a bartender who gets paid hourly with tips. She estimates she makes $75,000 a year with the two positions.
For Duber, who has a college degree in human and family studies, the job at Jacob Good is a short-term position. She's looking for a sales position, even though she knows she makes good money now. In college, she worked as a server at some casual restaurants and also as a bartender. After college, she also sold wine for two years.
The money a server brings home definitely depends on the place, she said.
"I've done very, very well here. It's more consistent behind the bar," she said. "The money is great. That's pretty much why I haven't left."
Being a bartender is also great for networking, said Duber. She estimates that bartenders at other restaurants make anywhere from $35,000 to $70,000 a year.
Workers in the food industry don't necessarily need a formal education, but those with an education are often more mobile and move up quicker in an organization, said Larry Gilpatric, a professor of hospitality management at the University of Akron.
But Tracy Roadarmel, owner of Jacob Good, said he doesn't think a formal education is necessary to make it in the industry.
Roadarmel uses his own career as an example. He drove to Orlando, Fla., two days after high school graduation and got a job at Walt Disney World. By the time he was 22, he was a hotel executive for Ritz-Carlton.
Roadarmel said while he looks for people with basic restaurant skills, he's more interested in someone's drive to succeed than their school background.
"I can teach them everything they need to know," he said.
Gilpatric said interest in the food industry has increased with the popularity of cable TV food shows.
"The celebrity chefs that we see on TV have added to give the whole industry a bit more prestige," said Gilpatric, who is also a certified chef. "At one point, it was a career of last choice. Now it's a career people are seeking out and saying, 'This is something I could do for the rest of my life.' "
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